Tatiana Karanja has spent most of her life traveling, exploring and briefly living in several different countries and is now settled in Kenya as a freelance photographer, blogger and mom. She photography portfolio is as diverse as they come and ranges from travel, weddings, nature, maternity and food shoots. She talks all things photography to Karen Muriuki.
In your words, who is Tatiana Karanja?
She is a blogger, foodie, adventurer, photographer and most importantly a mother.
Could you describe your career path?
I started photography ages ago. I loved taking pictures with my phone until my granddad gave me his camera. I never really thought it was something I could do because it wasn’t a popular career in Kenya. I got accepted into the university to study it, and my family was really supportive. I decided to go for it.
When did you start your blog?
Once my daughter Olive was born, last year. Before then, I told stories through my Instagram account, but this was mostly recipes, health and fitness tips.
It became more of my personal life when I gave birth to Olive, so I decided to create a blog where I could share that for her to see all that we’ve gone through when she grows up.
What is one thing that you wish you knew before you started taking photos professionally?
That I should not undervalue myself, though I would say someone gets to learn this with time and experience. Other than that, I’ve been really lucky and happy with how my journey has been over the years. I came back to Kenya and jumped right into work, so I would say that I’m fortunate.
Were you born and raised in Kenya?
Yes, and I was I Kenya till secondary school when I went to South Africa. I hated it, so I came back. (Laughs). I then went to the Netherlands to study.
Which institution specifically?
I studied Photography and Art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. It really wasn’t for me, so I moved to the Royal Academy of Art at The Hague, where I still studied photography.
How do you educate yourself to be better at your craft?
It just comes with experience. I was lucky enough to be taught a lot in school, but a lot comes from your passion and your drive. Yes, technical experience matters, but it comes down to the passion and drive at the end of the day.
What do you want your pictures to say?
There exists this notion that photographers need to have a style, or that their photos need to have meaning. For me, it comes with the moment. It’s different each time. I could be inspired by different things. I wouldn’t like to necessarily go towards one direction. I like the fact that I am able to try out different directions and stories. I wouldn’t want to keep myself in a box.
What motivates you?
I love what I do, (laughs). I think that’s motivation enough. I really do not need an incentive to get up in the morning. Also, I obviously have to make money for my family.
As a creative, are your days’ activities usually the same?
No, which is great! This way, I get to be flexible as a full-time mum, photographer and whatever jobs I come across.
Among your works, which is your favourite?
I would say pictures of my daughter. They are not up on my website as much, however.
Whose work has influenced you the most?
I can’t answer that because I am influenced by so many people, seeing as I do not have a specific style. I would say that I’m all over the place because I try out things as I see them. I am not at the stage where I have singled out my style. If I did, I would probably have an answer for you.
When did you know that photography was something you wanted to do?
When I got into that photography class when I was 18. I knew this was for me so I went through with it.
What would you say is the best advice you have ever received?
It’s cheesy. (Laughs). Be yourself and trust your ideas. Not everyone will agree with your work, but liking it will make others see it. A lot of teachers reiterated this in school, because everyone’s work was so different.
How do you balance out your work and personal life?
Again, it’s very easy because my schedule is so flexible. Olive and the nanny came with me to every shoot, even the travel ones, which worked out well because no one said it was ever unprofessional. She recently started school, so it doesn’t happen as much.
Any advice to aspiring photographers?
Trust your eye and instincts. There will always be negativity from somewhere. Also, do not undervalue or underestimate yourself.
What gear do you use?
A canon and five different lenses.
What do you specifically take with you when you travel?
My whole bag. Always.
Is there any gadget you wish you never bought?
(Laughs). I have so many gadgets that I’ve bought and don’t use. This is because I went all the way when I got a loan from my family for equipment. I have all these lighting material for a studio, which I really do not need because I don’t shoot in studios. I have a smoke machine, which is super cool, but I’ve only used it once.
Favourite lens? Why?
My 85 millimetres. It just makes the difference whenever I’m taking portraits.